Neighbors Appeal To Mayor Regarding Murphy Lane Controversy

Brian Rodems lives a short distance from what had been the barn at 39 Murphy Lane.  He and the neighbors have done an extraordinary job mobilizing people to oppose what they see as a threat to their neighborhood.  Below are the documents they have sent to the Mayor’s office in an attempt to solicit assistance.  The central argument is that the majority of the Zoning Board of Appeals are more concerned with facilitating construction than in carrying out the purpose of zoning to protect the character of the neighborhoods.

Below are photos meant to show how the barn was a lovely and integral part of the community before it was torn down along with pictures of the house being built in its place.  Also below is an excellent explanation of the issues by Mr. Rodems in his email to the Mayor and the city attorneys along with a letter from an attorney representing the neighbors that lays out the legal issues.

As of this evening they have not heard from the Mayor’s office.


Neighborhood Character
How Barn Fit Into Neighborhood
Original Barn Side View
Neighborhood Character 3
How It Fit Into The Neighborhood
Neighborhood Character 2
How Barn Fit Into Neighborhood
Neighborhood Block Party
Block Party On Murphy Lane In Front of Original Barn
Construction Sequence 1
Construction Sequence #1
Construction Sequence 2
Construction Sequence #2
Construction Sequence 3
Construction Sequence #3
Construction Sequence 4
Construction Sequence #4
Neighborhood Character 5
Analysis #2
Neighborhood Character 4
Analysis #1

Email To Mayor And Attorneys

From: Brian Rodems [] Sent: Friday, April 1, 2016



Subject: Opinion from City Attorney – ZBA Procedures as outlined in City Zoning Code

Mayor Yepsen & City Attorney’s Mr. Izzo and Mr. Deleonardis:

Property owners in this community continue to be placed at a disadvantage by the very board that is entrusted with the enforcement of the Zoning Codes for our city.  We are faced with the continued threat of over development or poorly planned development that will have a deleterious impact on our quality of life and the value of our property.  It would appear that the members of the ZBA have a predilection to provide support for developers – at the expense of neighborhoods – by loosely “interpreting” the zoning code to favor developers.

A case in point is ZBA Variance #2807.1 – 39 Murphy Lane.  One only has to watch the videos from the ZBA proceedings (see City Web Site) to understand the dilemma that we face.  During the Feb. 8 meeting (beginning at minute marker 6:58), as well as the subsequent meeting on Mar 21 (watch from the beginning), you will observe:

  • The ZBA discovers that the applicant has blatantly disregarded the conditions under which the original (x7) variances were granted, i.e. NO longer a renovation of a barn (and actually tore it down – see attached photos).
  • The Chairman, Bill Moore, repeatedly apologizes for the mistake he made in approving the original (x7) variances (that were key to advancing this project).
  • Members of the board ask the question – When are we going to finally hold an applicant accountable for NOT following board’s directives and forcing them to adhere to the city zoning codes?  In their words – they never have!
  • The Vice Chair admonishes the applicant and then looks to find a “compromise”  – instead of holding the applicant accountable.
  • The Board fails to follow the procedures outlined in the Zoning Code and allows the applicant to go forward with an appeal / modification to a previously granted variance.

Given this evidence, I would like to ask the City Attorney to address the following questions and to draft an opinion with regards to the procedures that the members of the ZBA must follow – as written in the City Zoning Codes:

  1. Is the ZBA compelled by the City Zoning Code to follow the procedural regulations in the performance of their duties, i.e. as referenced in City Zoning Code, Section 8.5(G)?


For reference, see the ZBA Variance #2807.1 – 39 Murphy Lane.  In this case the Applicant is asking the Board to reconsider and modify its prior decision:

  • “In order to rehear an appeal previously determined by the ZBA, the following must occur:
    • A ZBA member must move to formally rehear the appeal
    • A unanimous vote of all ZBA members present must approve the motion to rehear
    • The appeal shall be subject to the same notice provisions as an original hearing
    • The ZBA may reverse, modify or annul its original decision provided that the ZBA finds that the rights vested in persons acting in good faith reliance upon the reheard order, decision or determination will not be prejudiced thereby
    • A unanimous vote of all ZBA members present is required to reverse, modify, or annul its original decision”
  • Please see the attached document containing a legal opinion as drafted by an outside counsel, Amy Mele, Esq., who was retained by the property owners adjacent to 39 Murphy Lane property.

2.   Is the ZBA compelled by the City Zoning Code to force compliance with a previously approved variance?

For reference, see the ZBA Variance #2807.1 – 39 Murphy Lane.  In this case the Applicant was granted (x7) zoning variances, with stipulations attached to the final ruling.  In the approved variance application the ZBA outlined explicit requirements and conditions under which the variance was granted and to which the applicant had to comply with.

Once a variance is approved, does this document become legally binding and the conditions under which the variances were approved enforceable under city code?

Once the ZBA issues a ruling on a variance request doesn’t the applicant have to comply with the conditions stated in the variance?  And, if the Applicant fails to comply with those stipulated conditions, doesn’t the city have the right to fine the Applicant for damages and/or force them to remediate.


Brian Rodems

ZBA letter - Final-1

ZBA letter - Final-2

ZBA letter - Final-3

ZBA letter - Final-4

ZBA letter - Final-5

ZBA letter - Final-6

ZBA letter - Final-7

4 thoughts on “Neighbors Appeal To Mayor Regarding Murphy Lane Controversy”

  1. Wow the red arrow indicating 48 inches is way off…first of all 100 years ago I am sure the lane was down 12 from where it is now….but what make that the rule for where it is measured? in the original picture it appears the foundations was at least 12 inches tall to start with. Floor height in a building is not the point of measure either. Putting an arrow on a picture does not make it accurate. calling it 48 inches is an opponent’s view and not accurate. Any contractor will tell you good construction practices will default to make it a little higher than 100 year old standards. Holding a builder to those standards is ridiculous. Beside what is the finished product going to look like? Same siding make it appear similar, window are needed for easement fire code…and remember larger people have to be able to fit thru it is easy to add the siding lower on the building, basically over the upper portion of the foundations to complete the same old look. So 2 or 3 rows of clapboard does the trick and gets it done for both good construction and aesthetic look. Isn’t that what’s its really about? Standing back and reading above is about trying to whip the city into your enforcer by accusing the ZBA of wrong doing. The bottom line is that this is not significant intrusion on anyone. If extra space is desired or needed maybe they just have to go up, which i believe is again not much. I look at this and see a neighborhood party that will have a problem in the future holding it in the same spot as before. Is this the issue? Why the attorney from Long Island? No local attorney would take it? So maybe this is why the attorney could not show up?


  2. American with Disabilities Act requires certain standards, I see a side walk that is not passable with a wheelchair in those pictures. Where is code enforcement? I don’t see anyone complaining about that.


  3. If this owner has the permit yanked after it was issued and money spent. Do they have a right to sue the city…I think so. I would sue for stress as well. Remember the cop maced the jerk who went out to set up the cop and baited him? He got $50,000 of our tax dollars. I think a judge and jury considering this could award the owner a much bigger settlement. I for one am not willing to risk that kind of tax dollars, just so someone wants to call a barn historic. It looked like it was junk to start with…painted junk at that. Kudos for an attempted redo of an eyesore, good luck with your anticipated completed project.


  4. If you look at a map of Saratoga Springs, you will see lots and lots of alleys where adorable homes exist. Carriage homes that have been subdivided and rebuilt, newer ones built all adding to the fabric of our city. A rebuilt, in a barn style, with landscaping will only enhance the neighborhood.
    The height difference with the foundation seems negligible in an area where the zoning allows for a 60 ft height. The foundation that is showing, can easily be masked with additional topsoil and landscaping as it should for the proper drainage. The city has issued the required permits and variances in the proper format required. Is it your block party you are trying to protect? It is time for the city to accept that the owner went thru the proper channels and allow for this old, no value barn be replaced with a newer charming barn style home.


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